Description & Technical information

This fine watercolour was drawn on the island of Björkö (Swedish for ‘birch island’), where Gunnar Hallström lived for much of his life. Björkö was the site of several ancient Bronze and Iron Age remains, as well as the early Viking-era trading settlement of Birka, established around 750 AD, and Hallström campaigned to have the island preserved from exploitation and the proposed construction of summer homes. Together with his archaeologist brother Gustaf, he was able to have parts of Björkö purchased by the State between 1912 and 1914, later added to by the Swedish Academy of Sciences, so as to preserve the natural landscape for posterity. The care of the island came under the purview of the Swedish National Heritage Board (as it remains today), and Birka, along with the site of Hovgården on the neighbouring island of Adelsö, became a World Heritage site in 1993.

Hallström served as a supervisor on Björkö until the 1930s and spent much of the latter part of his life working on a written account of the ancient culture of the island, which remained unpublished at his death and only appeared in 1997, in partial form, as Björkö saga: människor och liv på en Mälarö (Björkö Saga: People and Life on a Mälar Island).